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Canadians are Still Spending Despite Economic Concerns, Says PwC

Despite prices on the rise for everything from groceries to gas, a potential recession, and plenty of economic uncertainty, a PwC survey suggests that Canadians are still spending, and are equally interested in both digital and in-person experiences.

The PwC survey, conducted in late 2022 among more than 500 respondents from across Canada, found that 73% of Canadians surveyed have visited physical stores at least monthly, and find that self-service technologies combined with helpful staff helps enhance the experience. More than half of the respondents (52%) say knowledgeable and helpful sales associates are an appealing part of in-store shopping.

Self-service checkouts in particular stand out to Canadian consumers, with close to half (48%) saying they’re an attractive feature of in-store shopping. This might, however, depend on the type of retail store: clothing might be great, groceries perhaps not as much.

Many Canadians report that they plan to scale back on non-essential purchases, but one in five Canadian consumers say they expect to increase their spending over the next six months with retailers that provide an efficient delivery service.

Supply chain issues, PwC notes, may, however, threaten established relationships between brands and their customers. Further improving on these supply chain challenges, doing whatever possible within your own control, are a way that companies can mitigate and create efficiencies with their supplier and distribution networks. Indeed, in its separate CEO Survey, PwC found that 49% of Canadian consumer markets CEOs plan to adjust their company’s supply chains in 2023.

Businesses that successfully implement data, analytics and automation capabilities into their supply and distribution can improve their delivery efficiencies and have an opportunity to grow their market share as well, says PwC.

The interest in in-person shopping may have something to do with the COVID-19 lockdowns and a desire to finally get back out and see other people in person. Indeed, 44% of respondents say they missed it during COVID-19 lockdowns. But it isn’t all about in-store shopping: 42% of Canadian consumers shop on their phones at least monthly, too. 

Another channel retailers should be watching closely, according to PwC, is the metaverse, defined by immersive virtual worlds accessible through different platforms users socialize, work, play games and buy digital and tangible objects. Globally, it’s still in the early stages of adoption, with only 26% of consumers using the metaverse. That figure is even lower in Canada, at 12%. But it’s something to watch.

“With consumers’ evolving expectations and a desire for an enhanced omni-channel experience, Canadian retailers have an opportunity to build new avenues for meeting consumers needs and differentiating their brand by creating frictionless and memorable experiences,” says Myles Gooding, National Consumer Markets Leader and Global Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC Canada. “It is imperative for retailers to transform and capture a share of in-person and digital experiences. In order to be successful, retailers must reimagine how consumers use technology across multiple channels and effectively interact with their brand.”

Despite all the concerns around the economy, year-over-year retail sales are actually up in recent months, according to Statistics Canada, proving that shoppers are still spending. Bottom line: Canadians are more sensitive to price and are looking for more dynamic experiences, both in person and online. But they are still, by and large, shopping.